Regular readers of this blog will know of my penchant for vocally expressing my displeasure (some may even say “Ranting”) at the ridiculous costs of Wireless Internet access, be it via expensive Wi-Fi Hotspots, or overpriced Mobile Operator Data offerings.
I already pay a very reasonable £7.50 a month to T-Mobile for their “Unlimited” (well, 1GB) Web’n'Walk plan on my MDA Vario II handset. I can’t recommend this service enough – it’s very reliable and it’s very cool having the web-in-your-pocket wherever you are!
There is an option to increase that subscription to £15.00 a month and additionally use the Mobile Phone as a Bluetooth Modem, but I’ve read various horror stories of incredibly poor driver support and flaky connections.
So when I heard Mobile Operator Three had begun to offer a tenner-a-month 3G Dataplan alongside a USB 3G Modem, I was intrigued.
Historically, 3 haven’t got the best of records with customer service – but recent reviews I’ve read show they’ve improved on that front. Only time will tell I guess and you can be sure I won’t hold back if I receive anything less than superior support.
Ordering over the web from www.three.co.uk was simple, the data-plan options and up-front costs being made obvious. I plumped for the one-off £99 cost for the USB Modem and a 12-month contract at £10 a month for 1GB of data (the “Lite” plan). 18 month and 24 month contracts saw the USB Modem cost reduced considerably, but my preference is to suck’n'see at this stage.
A day later the USB Modem arrived via Royal Mail Special Delivery, and so I duly unwrapped it, plugged the new SIM card into the unit and followed the instructions for installation onto my Windows Vista Business Laptop. The instructions were:-
“Plug into a spare USB port and follow the on-screen prompts”.
My kind of installation!
After registering the IMEI number on www.immobilise.co.uk as a security precaution (in the event of your Mobile Phone/Datacard getting stolen, Immobilise is useful for providing the required info for reporting the theft and many times asking the provider to disable the unit) I plugged the unit in and sure enough, a minute or so later the installation had completed and I had a new “3 USB Modem” icon on my Desktop.
Testing time! When I initially fired the Modem up, it failed to connect three times. Alas, it was down to impatience – and given a couple of minutes the unit had locked onto a decent HSDPA connection – which is better than T-Mobile which only offers GPRS here in the mean streets of Weoley Castle! For the uninitiated, HSDPA is the next step in 3G Mobile offerings – and offers true Broadband-esque speeds from Mobile connections.
Clicking “Connect” in the software a third time and 10 seconds of dial-up handshaking later I’m online and instantly impressed at the web browsing speeds! Unlike other providers, Instant Messaging/VoIP packages like Skype and Live Messenger aren’t disabled – so no problems there. The software offers speed connection overviews and upload/download meters so you can keep an eye on your usage.
I immediately nip over to Speedtest.net to see how the speed is. Impressive! 880k down – almost 1mb from a Wireless connection here in the suburbs! Upload is less impressive, at under 100k, but still adequate.
As an added bonus, the latest Draytek Broadband Routers (of which all my clients are now running) have a handy-dandy USB port that accepts external USB Modems to use 3G Connections for Internet access. I’ve not tested this as yet, but in theory it should mean I can fly to the rescue (like some sort of geeky superhero) to any client who has experienced a total Broadband Internet outage. Kapow evil ISPs!
So first impressions are – it’s all very cool! Question marks obviously hang over signal coverage and ongoing Support from 3 as a provider – but time will tell on both those fronts.
In the interests of Scientific Research I’ll be taking my laptop and the 3G Modem to as many different Public House locations across Birmingham over the next few lunchtimes – purely to see how good the coverage signal is in various areas of course!